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How To Outsmart Our Monkey Mind

Updated: 7 days ago








I'll never forget the feeling that came over me when I first heard a howler monkey. I was in Costa Rica at a yoga retreat center in the middle of the rainforest. People talked about the howler monkeys but no one could explain what they sounded like. Whenever I would ask a local they would just say, "When you hear it, you'll know." I had traveled to Costa Rica with the two girlfriends that I could talk into going to a vegetarian retreat. The retreat sat on 250 acres of land and they grew most of their organic food. The journey there was treacherous, and I was grateful that I took the van option instead of attempting to navigate the four hour drive with no road signs and pot holes that were sometimes larger than the street. Costa Rica produces some of the best fruit that I've ever tasted. It made me think about investors who come into the country and take its resources for a payment too low for the country to make basic repairs. My bungalow was up a steep hill. I had a hammock that overlooked the jungle and a glimpse of the ocean in the distance. There was a symphony of sound that happened each night. Some guests complained about it, but I loved the jungle sounds and would try to figure out what insects were singing me to sleep.


Then, it finally happened. The howler monkeys got together for their morning warning to assert their domain over their territory - which happened to be near our eco-tourist resort. I awoke to the sound, but I can't explain it. One howler can make an extremely loud sound, but a chorus of howlers are a completely different experience. I've found videos, but there is nothing like the surround sound in real life. I felt as if they were all around me and moving closer to me. For the first few moments, I was stunned and terrified - frozen in bed. It took me a few moments to realize that it was the sound of an animal. Then I relaxed and it hit me that it must be the howlers. Later that day, we went on a beautiful jungle hike that also featured an ocean view. The guide pointed out some howler monkeys, and I was stunned again. These medium-sized monkeys were swinging from tree to tree and having a great time. How on earth could a sound that loud come from an animal that size?





Unpacking The Mess Of How We Got Here

If we think about painting a room, the hardest part is the prep work (sanding, priming, caulking, spackling, draping, taping, etc.). Once the prep work is done, the painting is a relatively simple process that takes the least amount of time. Similarly, before we learn how to outsmart our monkey minds, we'll need to dive into a true understanding of our mind and how it works, and we have to unpack our layers of psychological and social programming. It is quite a mess to untangle, but if we are willing to do the work of understanding our minds, we'll practically trip and fall into outsmarting our monkey mind. Because of the stigma around mental health, social programming and our inexperience with processing emotions, we tend to fear that once we begin to look at the "crazy" thoughts in our head, we will somehow get sucked into a vortex of "crazy" that we will not be able to escape. However, this fallacy is based on fear and ignorance of how our mind works and of our power to be the boss of our minds. Let's go back to the howler monkeys and then dive into the social programming of children.


Because I had no knowledge of the howler monkeys, my perception of them was formed in my mind based on their sound. I envisioned something that looked like a great gorilla, but larger. I was completely wrong. In a similar way, the thoughts in our mind can torment us with noise that is so inaudibly loud, that we begin to take them seriously. We start believing the thoughts and allowing them to drive our actions. Instead of directing our minds to work for us, we become its servant. This is because we have not been taught about the characteristics of our mind, its mysterious ways of being or how to train it to work for us. The term "monkey mind" comes to us from Buddhism and compares our thoughts to restless monkeys who swing from tree to tree. Inside our head it could "sound" something like this:


I forgot to get onions. I was right at the store and didn't get the onions - so stupid! How could I forget? I had a list. I can't believe that man cut in front of me in line - big as I am and he's acting like he didn't see me. I need to lose weight. Nothing fits right anymore. Is that another mole on my face? Damn! And what is that ringing in my ear? I need to get that checked out. My body is falling apart!





If we allow our minds to randomly continue swinging from thought to thought, we can literally drive up our blood pressure and cause internal inflammation by simply letting our minds run amok. How did all of this stuff get in our heads? Its origins can be found in early childhood.


Let's explore some of the ways in which society trains us to disconnect from our innate intelligence and validate that which exists outside of ourselves.

I have always said that if I ever had children, I would world school them because conventional school makes no sense to me. Children love to explore, but we force them to sit still for at least 45 minutes at a time in classrooms while we pound facts into their head, often without relevant context. We teach children about facts and figures, but we don't teach them about themselves - how their minds work, how to accept responsibility for and nourish themselves through the consequences of their actions, why they think the way they do, how to observe what is happening in their bodies (including a holistic discussion about sexual health), how to handle the overwhelming feelings that they may face or move through obstacles, how to express what they need, etc. Then when they act out, our response is punitive instead of restorative. When we teach them about other cultures, we don't encourage them to understand the culture from its perspective, appreciate its differences or celebrate our similarities. Instead, we learn about "others" from the perspective that how we view the world is superior to other cultures. When we teach them facts and figures they are not based on the knowledge of/connection with the self.


'Psychology' has for many decades been seen as a universal monolithic Western 'science.' Being a Western construction, this 'science' has always claimed supremacy over other forms of knowing and knowledge systems. Subsequently, Western 'science' has become a partial representation of human experiences. Western 'science' is constructed out of experiences and conventions of one sector of the human race, denying other forms of experiences and knowledge systems existence and expression. This 'science' has established itself as the 'absolute human norm' through which the whole world has to be understood and experienced.                                  Dr. Lesiba Baloyi




Foundational Steps To Reforming Education

I started a project in Sacramento City, CA that I was unable to finish because I couldn't get enough funding or buy in from schools. But, I found a few interested community leaders who offered after school programs. I trained their teachers to revise their teaching style. Instead of a question like: Sarah has five apples, if she gives two apples away, how many does she have left? I would instruct them to say/write something like: Stand up, turn to your right and give a high five to the student next to you. When you give a high five, how many fingers to you see? Now, turn to your left and give the OK symbol to the student on your left. How many fingers do you have to bend when you make the OK symbol? They would then guide the students through understanding that in order to make the OK symbol they have to use two of their fingers, which is a subtraction. I encouraged them to grow herbs in the classroom and we created a few simple questions to check the students' sentence construction like giving them a piece of rosemary to smell and asking them to write down what they felt when they smelled it or what it looked like to them. These types of questions get the students out of their chairs, encourages them to think critically and builds upon their self-knowledge. In this way, their ability to think, create and contribute knowledge is cultivated and affirmed. No matter how young the child is, they are taught that they know something and can help others understand what they know.





Are Children Really Hyperactive?

I've worked with a lot of children, and I'm amazed at how their teachers and parents are so quick to brand them as hyperactive. Children are tactile explorers. In the holistic world, we don't put children in a box and slap a label on them because they are so adaptable. Their actions mirror our behaviors and subconscious energies (something that we don't usually consider when we are judging them). I was once asked to teach Qigong to a group of 90 children between the ages of four and 16. It was an intriguing challenge for me to figure out how to get them all engaged. Before I could get the first sentence out of my mouth, a five year old Black boy ran up to me and started jumping up and down to get my attention. I immediately shifted my teaching style. First, I squatted to put myself at his level, looked into his eyes, thanked him for having the courage to come up to me, and asked him to be my helper. I congratulated him for being the first person to assist me. I then addressed the crowd and said that I had room for two more. Would anyone else like to help? As I gave the initial instructions, I held his hands to help him move his body and together we demonstrated the movements. He quickly settled down and began to focus because I gave him something to do.





Qigong moves very slow, but half of the kids were fidgety because they were so young. I ignored their fidgeting, and the self-consciousness of the teens who were lined against the wall, and focused on the demo. I started the music and we began to practice. I wish I had someone to record what happened next. I started the Qigong walking style form and the middle school kids mimicked my movements. With my reinforcement, they quickly shifted away from looking at me and began to create their own movements. Then the younger kids, began to slow their movements down. The teens were still too self-conscious, but in time, they stopped looking at each other and began to connect with themselves.





After about 15 minutes, everyone was in sync with the slow movements, the energy in the room and the practice. During the last five minutes, the organizer peeked into the room and was astonished to see everyone moving in slow motion. Were these kids hyperactive? Here's how the alchemy of Qigong gradually brought everyone together:

☯ Yin/yang talk, full body drumming and internal power warm up alchemy - right before

I start the slow moving Qigong practice, I explain the concept of yin and yang as

interdependent opposites and get them to shout out some opposites so that I can be

sure that they understand what I mean. Then I do some very fast moving exercises

that cause them to want to slow down.

☯ Patience alchemy - each age group needs a different amount of time to feel

comfortable with something new. The practice began primarily with the middle

school kids leading the way and the other kids gradually participating once they

felt comfortable.

☯ Nonpunitive/judgmental alchemy - the kids saw that there was a place for the

rowdiest kid in the group and the creativity that they brought to the form was

consistently encouraged, affirmed and reinforced which removed the root cause of

comparison/jealousy/competition.

☯ Time alchemy - The healing music was relaxing to them and helped them to connect

with themselves.





In my version of world schooling, the day begins with a healthy breakfast, plenty of fruit ☥ water ☥ healthy snacks, healing movement, journaling and art projects. After lunch, we do just enough healing movement to stimulate digestion, get into academics, and as often as budget permits, history class would be at the pyramids in Egypt, science class would be in the Galapagos Islands, etc. At home, science class can be all through the house, especially the kitchen and backyard. For example, before explaining what chlorophyll is/why it is important, we can put a big rock over a small section of grass, wait a day and then have a discussion about what happened to the grass under the rock. This would allow us to come to a deeper understanding of how the sun contributes to the production of chlorophyll in plants.



A recent study of youth found, strikingly, that females comprise 48 percent of those who self-reported committing rape or attempted rape from age 18 to 19. ☥ Scientific American ☥ From: Sexual Victimization by Women Is More Common Than Previously Known




There is a physiological reason why teenagers want to sleep all day. Puberty has shifted their circadian rhythms. Instead of helping our teens to understand what is going on with their bodies, adjusting their schedule to give them a greater sense of autonomy (which they naturally need and fight for) and help them through the transition, we force them to get up early for a long day of academics and wonder why they are attracted to caffeinated (or other) stimulants. From a holistic perspective, the ideal day for a teen would start at about 10:30 a.m., giving the teen the opportunity to get about 10 hours of sleep, participate in healing movement, journaling and co-created assignments that allow them to exercise their autonomy and express themselves creatively. They'll have a hearty healthy breakfast with plenty of fruit available for snacks. They will then be ready to move into academics, holistic sex education, personal finance and extracurricular activities (sports, clubs, etc.) in the afternoon. Having lots of healthy snacks available all day will help them balance their energies (they need more nutrients to support their growth spurt) and will prevent typical teen imbalances caused by candidiasis such as acne.



During one of the breaks of a workshop at a high school in Detroit, a 14 year old Black male slipped me a note. It was so cute because he was sitting right near me. The note said, 'How do I talk to girls?' My heart sank because I realized that no one was having these conversations with teens. How do we teach them to master control of their bodies and prevent sexual abuse/manipulation if we don't have these conversations right at the time when they are most vulnerable - when their hormones are spiking and they can be easily manipulated? I downloaded enough information into him to make his eyes open wide. He was so relieved to finally get some information. That conversation inspired me to blog about how I would empower my son [or daughter] with holistic sexual health education (located within the Three Elephants Blocking Our Healing blog).


How many cases of sexual perversion, manipulation and abuse could we prevent if we would heal our emotions, overcome our own ignorance and educate our children?





...These Western concepts are at variance with the African conceptions and practice of healing and should therefore be replaced with appropriate African concepts. The implication of this is that there will be consistency between how 'psychotherapists' train and practice, and the cultural experiences within which they train.                             Dr. Lesiba Baloyi





I share these strategies because Black ☥ Indigenous ☥ Immigrant People are relational in nature, but we were colonized by people who not only view us as objects, but the foundation of their way of knowing and doing is based on/validated by objects that exists outside of themselves. How we think, believe and behave, what we know and how we know it, our habits and societal norms are all dominated by a foundation that is the opposite to our indigenous way of being. Many people are born, live and die unconsciously accepting of societal norms, primarily disconnected from themselves and without becoming aware of/questioning thoughts, beliefs, behaviors, etc.



Science constructed from an epistemology foreign to indigenous Africans for example, cannot therefore be seen as representative and reflective of their experiences. In such an instance, tension between Western 'science' and African indigenous experience as a form of science exists. It is for this reason that the current conceptions of Western 'science' need to be deconstructed to put 'science' in its appropriate context. Such reconstructions and deconstructions demand a dialogical engagement (not a monologue) with these epistemologies to dispel the intellectual property right paradigm that the West claims over other worldviews.                                                        Dr. Lesiba Baloyi




Of all the cultures who surrounded me in early childhood, it was the Jamaicans who really stood out, because their consistently empowered and defiant behavior was a stark difference from the Black Americans around me. I didn't grow up around any Black folks from the Nation of Islam or the Black Panther Party For Self-Defense. The Black Americans I knew would consistently usher warnings such as: Don't go there, Black People don't go there. Don't talk like that, move like that, listen to music too loud, wear your hair or behave a certain way, etc. because it upsets white people. I felt like I needed a manual to remember all hoops I had to jump through to keep from upsetting white people, making them feel uncomfortable and targeting me.





At the very same time, the Jamaicans had an entirely different set of messages: You have a right to be wherever you want to be; go there and if you are the only Black person there, be sure to place yourself in the middle of the room so that you can ruin the day for all the white people; never lower yourself for white people - get your education, lift your head up and walk proud, don't let anyone put you down.


I thought the Jamaicans were going to get me and everyone else killed. I was afraid to take their advice. However, I noticed that white people were arbitrary in who they targeted so it didn't matter whether I was jumping Jim Crow or empowering myself. Our perceived safety, earned with subservient behavior, from people who dehumanize us is an illusion. I loved the Jamaicans' cultural pride and defiance so much that I slowly began to break free from the many layers of social conditioning.





How The Mess Can Play Out In Our Perceptions Of The World

Though it took me a while to cultivate the courage to act on it, my early childhood experiences disrupted this unconscious acceptance. As I child, I watched a lot of television, but because I was desperate to find Black People on TV, I fell in love with shows like Star Trek and Mission Impossible, and I was really curious about this place called Africa. My first memory of disruption came from my bonus dad who happened to be a very strong-willed Nigerian. I had never met a Black man like him, and I thought he was mean. In time, I came to understand the difference between mean and a combination of frustration ☥ defiance and ignorance to the effects of the colonization of Black People in America (which was different from the way Africans in Nigeria were colonized). He came home from work and caught me watching reruns of Tarzan on television. My bonus dad completely lost his temper, and although his bedside manner was terrible, I came to appreciate what he said and did. He stormed over to the TV and said: Ah Ah! What is this you are watching? What is this you are watching! You damn stupid Black People! You don't know nothing about your history. You don't know nothing about your culture!





Then, he points to people on the show, Look at him, he is NOT African! Look at this, this is NOT Africa! He pounds himself on the chest as he says, I am African! I am African, look at me and look at them! They are NOT African! If you want to know about Africa then you ask me, you ask an African! Do you think we would let some damn stupid white man come swinging through the jungle screaming and hollering? We'd kill him! Ah Ah! Damn stupid! Turn this thing off!





My own personal research, and conversations with Black ☥ Indigenous ☥ Immigrant (BII) psychologists who have traveled extensively throughout Africa/around the world, revealed that we fail to recognize that BII people from around the world have been colonized differently (including/within each country in Africa) and are isolated from these complicated dynamics so that we run in circles competing, pulling rank and distrusting each other instead of zooming out to see the common threads that connect us so that we can understand each other and cultivate community, real trust and healing.             Three Elephants Blocking Our Healing


I was too angry with him to appreciate what he was saying in the moment because I can't stand for people to yell at me. However, after a while I came to notice that what he was saying was true.


I was looking, but I couldn't see. That is the power of social conditioning.

A short time later, my teacher said that Egypt was not in Africa. I asked my bonus dad and again I got the, Ah Ah damn stupid teacher! Don't listen to white people. He brings the globe over: Look at this! Look at this! Where is Egypt? Does it look like it is not in Africa! Damn stupid teachers! I told you don't listen to white people! On another occasion, I asked my babysitter, who was an East Indian woman from Trinidad, about something my teacher said about India. My babysitter was a very quiet docile woman, but in this moment she defiantly said: Who told you this? Who told you this? If you want to know about India, ask an Indian!


All of this wasn't enough to wake me up (which speaks to how deeply the social programming was embedded into my psyche) but it disrupted me enough to start questioning. There was definitely something "off" about the portrayal of Black ☥ Indigenous ☥ Immigrant People on TV, but I couldn't put my finger on what it was. It wasn't until I got to high school and took a psychology course, that I began to run experiments and make connections. I needed to know if white people were better than Black People simply because they are white. I came to realize that white people had systems, networks and structures that supported them. After hundreds of surveys, I concluded that they were better resourced, but there was no evidence to support that they were better in any way.





Ultimate liberation recognizes that the form of the Creator is a form superior to human flesh (totally) and the perfected being invites us to a transformed state of perfection larger than material identity. Such transformation will never be possible so long as our aspiration is locked in the frame of a material and (by implication) deficient or incomplete form. ☥ Na’im Akbar ☥ From: 'Breaking The Chains Of Psychology Slavery'

Unfortunately, many Black People at my high school were socially brainwashed to be ashamed of anything African. During a parent teacher night, one of my family members got excited when I introduced her to a Black male in my class. She told him that he looked just like one of our African friends. He was so upset/insulted. I remember him saying "I'm Black, I'm not an African!" His eyes literally teared up because he didn't want to look like an African. His reaction is the result of many years of watching commercials of starving children in Africa and other "third world countries," and not personally knowing any Africans. When I was a child, those commercials, which often featured a child with a fly buzzing around their face, ran at least ten times per day during after school time when children were watching TV. During Saturday morning cartoons, these commercials would run at least 20 times, interspersed with ads for toys, super sugary cereals, etc. Technique alone will not help Black ☥ Indigenous ☥ Immigrant People or white allies to outsmart our monkey minds. We have to drill down to and eliminate an array of root causes. Let's digress here to dive a bit deeper and journey through a few examples of how the monkey mind gets its racial content:

☥ During a conversation with an interracial couple, from a white church that I once

attended, the husband, who is Black, said: It's a good thing that we were brought here

from Africa because you know that Africans were uncivilized, practicing voodoo and

witchcraft. If it weren't for slavery, we wouldn't know Jesus, praise God! As I reflect on

that conversation, I can only imagine what perceptions the two white children, who

were from the wife's previous marriage, had on race. As they are now adults, they can

justify knowing something about Black People because their stepfather is Black.





Although the Black man's ideas were a part of the colonization of Black People before the time of Phillis Wheatley (1753-1784), knowing about her life and the tragedy of her as a successful experiment in psychological warfare helps us to understand how this mess was created. Most sources assert that she was stolen away from her family at the age of about seven. However, I suspect that she was actually five years old or younger, because Black children generally look older and she writes about not remembering her mother. She was purchased by a "kind" white woman who:


☥ Gave her a Christian education

☥ Isolated her from the other enslaved Black People on the plantation

☥ Gave her limited domestic work as a child

☥ Sponsored her to travel internationally to educate white people about slavery and to

showcase their ability to use psychological warfare to “control” Black People. She

became a prototype for social programming, the tactics of which have been subtly

refined and are still in active use today. White scholars love Phillis Wheatley and have

advocated for statues to be erected in her name, but do not address the tragedy of her

psychological programming. Her most famous poem was called "On Being Brought

From Africa To America:"





It wasn’t “mercy” that “brought” her from her “Pagan” land. It was slavery that abducted her from her fertile land - land that was being continually raped and pillaged by her captors. What is more disturbing is that the woman who raised her used kindness to cultivate a deep sense of self-hatred which was reinforced through religion and education. Phillis truly believed that she was an inferior being because of her skin color. What person in their right mind would ever describe their soul as being "benighted" or would believe that they could not know or seek redemption?





If you have not seen the movie Get Out, please study it. I now consider "Get Out" to be an innovative science nonfiction docudrama on a few of the modern day manifestations ☥ metaphors of Phillis Wheatley programming. Many of us have no idea how deeply the programming is embedded within us and when we wake up, we often feel trapped within the psychological manipulation and the socioeconomic structures imposed upon us (which prevents us from breaking free from it/tricks us into surrendering to it). When we "outsmart" our monkey mind, we create escape routes that carry us to mental freedom ☥ power ☥ serenity. It is a necessary step in our path to wokeness.



Black ☥ Indigenous ☥ Immigrant People continue to be colonized through social conditioning in an attempt to create more Phillis Wheatleys. Examples include: white people who adopt Black ☥ Indigenous ☥ Immigrant children and the systems/politics that make adoption cost prohibitive for many Black ☥ Indigenous ☥ Immigrant People; whitewashed education - particularly in affluent areas and boarding schools; consistent pressure to conform to white culture in order to achieve professional success, which often keeps Black ☥ Indigenous ☥ Immigrant People from speaking up at staff/board meetings, political and other leaders who are given high level positions (to give the impression that Black ☥ Indigenous ☥ Immigrant People are making progress) but who enforce a eurocentric agenda. It also includes causing problems that only colonizers can solve such as the covert recruitment and funding of 'rebels' (i.e. using tactics that suppress the economic growth/development/self-determination of Black ☥ Indigenous ☥ Immigrant People such as bribery to manipulate desperate people in survival mode/causing tribal divisions and inciting rioting/violence by using propaganda to prevent colonizers from being identified as the conspirators/protect colonizers from being brought to justice) which forces a country to call on its former colonizers for help or seeks to justify the appropriation of art/other assets, etc.




After my bonus dad got his degree at Rutgers, he couldn't get a job so my family moved to Miami. I was afraid to move to "the deep south," and stayed with family friends to see if I could earn enough money to go to college and stay "up north." However, our family was struggling and after one semester, I felt obligated to move. The only thing that made me not feel so afraid was the knowledge of a large amount of immigrants. Because I had such a deep bond with the Mexicans and Puerto Ricans in NJ, I was excited to get to know Cubans, Haitians and other Caribbean cultures. I believe it was Dave Chappelle who talked about having a family that was just barely in the middle class. We had too much money for me to qualify for financial aid, but not enough money to send me to college. My desperation to go to college and educate myself about the world was a major catalyst for workaholism, which I developed in Miami.


I didn't go to college right away, because I needed a car and to help my family. The journey for Black ☥ Indigenous ☥ Immigrant People in my financial situation is traumatic because we can see where we want to go, but we don't have the knowledge, resources or mentorship to help us get there. We are driven by a deep fear of becoming poor/homeless and torn by the constant need to financially help our families which prevents us from making real progress as we find ourselves in a cyclical pattern of taking one step forward and two steps backwards. I went to the airport, determined to get a job working for the airlines. It was the only way that I could afford to travel and learn about the world. At first I was offered the flight attendant job, which was exciting, but I turned it down because I was afraid that the money would seduce me away from my goal of going to college. I became a reservations agent so that I could easily swap out work schedules with other agents to accommodate my school schedule. This job opened up the world to me and introduced me to the inside of a white person's mind.





I went to college full time during the day and worked the midnight shift - full time. There was no time for college parties or joining a sorority, which I wouldn't have done anyway. I practically worked around the clock, determined to pull myself out of the struggle. Many white people despised the Cubans and other Immigrants and no matter how hard I tried to keep them focused on their flight reservations, they insisted on talking about Black People and Immigrants. It never occurred to them that I might be Black. My psychology training kicked in again, and I was back to conducting experiments. During my tenure at three different airlines, I had thousands of these conversations. Here's a snapshot of a few of the conversations between me (PSH) and a white person (WP):


The "I Can't Believe You Live In Miami" Conversation

WP: So where are you located?

PSH: Our office is in Miami.

WP: You gotta get outta there! I never go south of the border (referring to the border

between Miami and Fort Lauderdale). You should come up to Palm Beach.

PSH: I found a great nonstop flight leaving out of Palm Beach airport at 5:40pm, shall I

book it?

WP: Yeah, that'll be great. I'm serious about Palm Beach though. You should come up

here. You wanna know what is so great about Palm Beach?


At this point in the conversation, I'm thinking about the quickest way to get him off the phone. So, I respond:


PSH: What?

WP: Well, Palm Beach is so beautiful. It doesn't have all the noise of Miami and everyone

up here speaks English. But the best part is that all the Blacks, Haitians and

Cubans live on one side and all us white folks get to live on the other side, isn't that

great?

PSH: I didn't know that. It's been great talking with you, but I have a lot of calls waiting so

let me get you the confirmation number for your flight ...





The "Can We Meet Up" Conversation

The white guys were very manipulative in these conversations, because they would ask general questions about the airline in order to figure out my location, etc. before asking me to meet up with them. Then they would attempt to pressure me to answer their questions:


PSH: I have a flight that leaves LaGuardia at 6pm and gets you back to Miami at 8:58pm,

would that get you back on time?

WP: That depends. Can I swing by and take you to dinner?

PSH: We're not permitted to socialize on the phone. Do you want me to book you on the 6pm flight?

WP: Aw come on, don't be a prude. Nobody's listening. You have such a sexy voice. What

are you blond or brunette? You sound like a blond. I bet you have green eyes. I

make a lot of money, and I'll take you to a really nice place. How late do you work?


At this point he has my name and more information than I would want him to have so I'm not confident enough to hang up on him. I generally would thank him for the compliment, remind him that I had a backlog of calls and could be reprimanded for staying on the phone too long, and refocus on booking the reservation. These calls were difficult to manage at first because I was young, inexperienced and somewhat easily intimidated by the power dynamic. After a few years, I played along to provide data for my psych experiments.





The Passport Conversation

My job uncovered a hidden form of racism within the travel industry. The issue surfaced primarily with Middle Eastern and African travelers (ME/AT):

PSH: I've booked you on the midnight flight to Heathrow and your confirmation number

is FX032Q. I need to check your visa requirements. Are you South African?

ME/AT: Why do you need to know? I have enough money to pay for the ticket.

PSH: Yes sir, I just need to make sure that you have all of the required travel

documents to get through customs in London.

ME/AT: Why do you have to know if I'm South African? Are Black South Africans not

permitted to fly your airlines?


Although I worked for the airlines prior to 9-11-2001, I had to work hard to assure these travelers that I was just trying to make sure that they got through customs. I often had to tell them that I was Black to calm them down. I discovered that the most non-triggering question to get at what I needed was, "What is the citizenship of your passport?"





One of the most unusual occurrences that I experienced with white people in Miami was their active recruitment in turning me against the Cubans. They focused on the fact that Cubans won't speak English in public. Most of the time, I would be so astonished by their behavior that I wouldn't know how to respond.





What would I say? Oh yes, you're right. My English colonizers are superior to their Spanish colonizers so for that reason I should join you in your hate-mongering towards Cubans. I'll just forget about the fact that you despise me also.





Although I thoroughly enjoyed being surrounded by many cultures in Miami, to my dismay, they didn't behave like the people in my childhood neighborhood:

☥ The Cubans reigned supreme as they made up about 25% of Miami's population. I

LOVED Cuban culture, but it was a complicated love as I was disappointed with the

layers of racial dynamics (too many for this post) which played out in an array of

dimensions such as:

☥ Heated debates around who was for or against Fidel Castro.

☥ Rank pulling over/between other colonized Spanish speaking people from South

and Central America, Mexico, etc., firmly placing Mexicans at the bottom.

☥ What appeared to be a complete disconnection from their Indigenous roots and

an alignment to/adoration for Spain as their ancestry. I cannot count how many

times a Cuban proudly stated that Christina was a blond. I had a friend who

considered himself white because he was a second generation Cuban who grew

up in Miami. He had no knowledge of his Indigenous roots. During a trip to the

islands, I noticed that he got as dark as me after two days of sun bathing.

Though his hair was curly, it didn't occur to him where his dark skin or curly hair

could have come from. I checked him on this whenever the opportunity arose,

but he was married to the illusion of his identity.


Racial tensions between Black People and Cubans, with a distinct separation between Black Cubans and Black Americans, were mostly passive/aggressive in nature. In my experience, it was the Black Americans who were less welcoming which broke my heart because I didn't understand how colonization pits "races" against each other. I generally found Black Cubans to be open and receptive to me, often surprised that I accepted them/mistaking me for a Black Cuban because of my behavior.





The Haitians in Miami were shining stars to me. I found them to be vibrant, beautiful, loving and welcoming people. When I first moved to Miami, I noticed something that couldn't have been a coincidence. Whenever Cuban refugees washed up on Miami's shores, they were welcomed and supported. When Haitians arrived they were often and swiftly detained/deported. Mumbo Jumbo stereotypes/scenarios persisted. This caused many layers of tensions in Miami, though I noticed more of a solidarity between Black Americans and Haitians. During this time, I was introduced to the concept of yellow journalism in college, and could find evidence of it in what were considered to be impartial network news stations.





It was in Miami that I noticed a disturbing rank pull among Jamaicans that I may have been oblivious to as a child. It happened one day when I was having a conversation with a Jamaican woman. In the middle of the conversation she stopped and asked me where I was from. The conversation went something like this:


"Where you from?"

I was born in Maryland, but I grew up in New Jersey.

"Where are your parents from?"

Maryland and Virginia.

"No, I mean where in Jamaica are your parents from?"

I grew up around Jamaicans, but my family is not from Jamaica. I suspect they came up from the deep south during the great migration.

"Oh my goodness! I would never have thought you to be a Black American. I thought you were one of us."


I cannot count how many times I endured that conversation during my years in Miami. It happened so often that I would sometimes want to say that I was Jamaican because I wasn't in the mood/energetic enough to deconstruct the layers of mess that created that rank pull. This conversation occasionally happened with other islanders as well, but I do not ever recall it happening with a Haitian. Interestingly enough, this scenario often played out with Cubans, but without the rank pull.




A Double Down Digression: The Black American Experience

I'm wrapping up this digression with a double down on the Black American experience which will take a little time to unpack. For most of my life, I've had a lingering question gnawing at me about how I process communication. One night I seeped into a deep meditation, and I asked my innate wisdom: Where does the pause/brain lock come from when a person asks me a question? Why do I ramble sometimes to get to what I'm trying to say? Why do I see pictures or have a feeling that I can't put to words? Is it because I'm not a good communicator? I sat in silence for a long while. Then an insight came to me: You are an excellent communicator, but you are attempting to communicate in a language that is not your mother tongue. I don't have the words to describe the feeling of loss and anguish that washed over me, followed by an even deeper sense of healing peace. When we have the courage to face the truth, the sting is temporary. What remains is the healing peace. I can feel my languages of origin, but I don't know what they are. Although I have improved over the years, this is why I sometimes pause when I'm asked even the simplest of questions. I need the time to process the feeling or picture and translate it into English. The mess that created the Black American experience is beyond the scope of this blog, but I feel compelled by Spirit to attempt to unpack enough to assist us in understanding the rabbit hole of trauma that we endeavor to heal.


My April 2022 newsletter featured a celebration of a selection of countries who achieved independence from various European colonizers. The image links to an excellent documentary on the history of the scramble for Africa which I highly recommend. If we consider what it means for a country to achieve independence, where does that leave America? If we consider slavery:

☥ The United Kingdom's Slavery Abolition Act became law in 1833.

☥ The United States of America's 13th Amendment abolished slavery in 1865, 32 years

after the colonizer from whom it fought for its own "independence."


So the abolition of slavery is not the same as achieving independence from colonizer rule. If we think back to my experiences with other Black cultures, Nigeria achieved independence from the British in 1960. Jamaica achieved independence from the British in 1962. Haiti achieved independence from the French in 1804. Cuba defeated the Spanish in the War of 1898, but the U.S.A. occupied Cuba until 1902. Where does this leave Black Americans?




Here's a snapshot of the unique layers of the Black experience in America:

☥ Unlike Blacks from the Caribbean or Africa, the speaking of our native language

(including a patois fusion), our ability to use our Indigenous names and practice of

African Spirituality/infusion of it into Christianity was strictly prohibited and literally

beaten out of us. In elementary school, I had to attend "speech class" for three years

because of my slightly southern accent. No one in my class had a speech impediment,

it was me along with the Puerto Ricans, Mexicans and anyone else who had an

accent.

☥ After Red Summer (1921), Black Americans were disenfranchised making it very difficult

for us to re-establish successful businesses. Black Americans were then forced into

ghettos in major cities and further disenfranchised. Many Immigrants, who couldn't set

up businesses in white neighborhoods, were permitted to do so in Black ☥ Immigrant

neighborhoods such as:

☥ Middle Eastern, East Indian Immigrants - convenience stores, etc.

☥ Asian Immigrants - beauty supply, nail salons, grooming/hair care products, etc.

☥ Italian Immigrants - pizza shops , etc. (interestingly enough, the Black guy who gets

kicked out of the pizza shop in Do the Right Thing is the super talented Giancarlo

Esposito, a Black Italian actor).





The video above dives into a few issues that is the other side of the coin of the large potholes I saw in Costa Rica:

☥ When investors/brick-and-mortar businesses come into disenfranchised communities

and take their resources or dollars, where do those dollars go?

☥ Do the business owners employ people from the community?

☥ Are the customers treated with dignity and respect?

☥ Do the Black People in these neighborhoods pay taxes to fund their own

disenfranchisement?

There is a more recent trend of African/Asian Immigrants who can afford to buy and rent property in lower income neighborhoods, which reinforces the fallacy that Black Americans don't have the business savvy to manage their own real estate. In Miami, Little Havana (8th Street) has a plethora of businesses that are owned by and serves the Cuban community. Beginning in the 1950's, I95 was expanded to run through the heart of Overtown (less than four miles from Little Havana) forcing thousands of Black residents to relocate/become homeless. Overtown is now in the process of disappearing as a Black community through gentrification. I also lived in Oakland, CA where gentrification has caused a community of Black People living in tents. I've watched white people ride by in their bicycles, unaffected by the scene and just waiting until the gentrification process is complete (which often ends in the renaming of the city/town).





In order to outsmart our monkey mind, we need to be wise enough to transcend our emotional reactions to the surface issues and dive deep into the ways in which society keeps us divided against each other. Too much damage has been done. As the people who pull rank have also been under the influence of psychosocial manipulation, we need to redirect our energies towards cleaning up the mess. Collective healing begins with humble self-awareness and a commitment to engage in the art of self-correction.



The deconstructionist approach is intended to critique or identify the error and weaknesses found in the typical approaches to education for [Black ☥ Indigenous ☥ Immigrant People] ...                 Deconstruction is the necessary first step towards the education of [Black ☥ Indigenous ☥ Immigrant People] who have already been miseducated by a European-American educational system. Since so much of our information (even the language that we use) has come to us through European systems, we must carefully scrutinize the information that we are using. It is critically necessary to realize that something is wrong with our training before we can even begin to address what is needed for our re-education. When we have been miseducated, we have been implanted with a defense of what has been learned. It may be possible to raise some occasional questions about the information that we have obtained, but it is extremely difficult for a person to acknowledge a rather comprehensive flaw in their learning experiences. It is like trying to appreciate the concept of color when one is genetically color-blind. ☥ Na'im Akbar ☥ From: 'Know Thyself'




We must ask ourselves, where did colorism, self-hatred, sexual perversion, Black-on-Black/Indigenous-on-Indigenous/Immigrant-on-Immigrant crime, etc. come from? Did the tragedy in Rwanda, Somalia, corruption in Nigeria, genital mutilation, hip hop music that disrespects women, etc. occur before or after colonization? If they occurred after colonization then why do we believe in its rhetoric? Anytime that we’ve seen Black ☥ Indigenous ☥ Immigrant People behaving in ways that are contrary to their cultural norms, we find a root cause that is connected to colonization.


Immigrants come into our neighborhoods and see the reality of the conditions without the historical context of Red Summer and the continual assault on the Black family, which runs the gamut, and includes but is not limited to the history of medical experimentation on Black Americans, crack cocaine and the prison industrial complex, cultural appropriation, white sponsored, demoralizing corporate hip-hop music, predatory white women, sex trafficking Black girls, targeting of Black males, funders who write grants that force struggling Black ☥ Indigenous ☥ Immigrant nonprofits to compete for the same resources, the whitewashing of children's education, colorism, homophobia, the manipulative portrayal of Black People in the media (which is marketed worldwide), the low birth weight/infant mortality rate among Black women regardless of their socioeconomic background, the disconnection/disassociation of middle-class and upper-class Black People who work hard to escape the madness by disappearing into white neighborhoods only to eventually discover a more cunning and subtle form of racism, etc. If we juxtapose this with Black and other Immigrants who want to prove themselves worthy of/to America, we can see how the puzzle pieces of rank pulling, comparison, jealousy, competition, etc. come together. We can also see how this mess creates an ecstatic jungle of branches for the monkey in our mind to swing our way.





Because the issue of predatory white women continues to be ignored and represents an important category of branches for our monkey mind to grab, I'll share a few examples from my own life. I was at the space needle with a Black male family member. I immediately noticed a white woman looking at us. I looked back to say hello (and to encourage her to stop staring) but she looked away. Then she started staring again and continued to do so for the next 90 minutes. White women who behave like this are like a gnat in the face to me, but I refused to let her ruin my day at the space needle so I simply ignored her. I left my family member to use the restroom, and when I returned the white woman was talking to him. I walked up behind her and she jumped with fright quickly stating, "Oh, oh I was just telling your husband about things to do in Seattle."


Somehow, it never occurred to her to approach us until I left the room. When she found out that the man I was with was not my husband/boyfriend, she quickly lost interest in us, walked away and never looked our way again. The next day, we had brunch at the revolving restaurant where a different white woman stared at us from a few tables away. This time I completely ignored her. When we finished our meal, we were informed that she paid for our brunch. When my family member thanked her, she engaged in conversation just long enough to realize that we were not married and practically walked away from us in mid-sentence.




An older white woman who met me at a workshop engaged me in conversation and then became my client. She was well educated/travelled and had worked on social justice issues for most of her life. After a short time, she said that she wanted to introduce me to a successful Black man with whom she thought I was compatible. They had worked together 25 years ago, so she has known him for most of his adult life. I was definitely not interested in a long distance relationship, but she was a spiritual person, and I was intrigued by how well she sold his qualities of integrity. She came to me every week for some sort of holistic health care (which I was grateful for because I had just started my business), and though I appreciated her enthusiasm, I have firm boundaries with my clients. I found myself constantly redirecting the conversation away from him and towards her health during sessions. She was so cunning, calculated and crafty that it took me a while to realize that she was obsessed with him. Because she was too old for his taste, there was no way for her to stay in his life -- unless she could be connected to him through someone like me. In retrospect, I realize that there were a number of red flags that so gradually and subtly surfaced, that I didn't recognize them as red flags at first.


When I went to her house to drop off a few plants from my herb garden, I was stunned to the point of being dumbfounded. I noticed a Jim Crow caricature in her home. I couldn't respond, but she quickly justified it by saying that she has a collection of them to preserve so that people will remember the Jim Crow era. She then walked me down to the basement where she had at least 100 Jim Crow coon caricatures. From the moment she saw me, I was a target to be used for her benefit, and she was willing to put a lot of skin in the game to get what she wanted. I felt like porky pig turning from a dunce to a dope to a sucker. After the experience was over, I needed a lot of self-care. It took me a while to forgive myself for missing the red flags (with her and with what turned out to be the worst relationship that I've ever had) and recover from the manipulation.





A dear Black male that I've known my entire life showed up with a biracial baby to an event. I was surprised because I had never known him to have any interest in white girls. However, my high school experiences should have indicated the possibility. I met his girlfriend and was immediately disheartened. The next time I saw him, they had another baby, and I talked to the girlfriend about birth control. I was concerned because they were very young and he hadn't gone to college because of the first child. When the third child was born, she nonchalantly told me that birth control didn't work for her. She had the signs of a sexual narcissist, but there wasn't much that I could do from the outside except pray for the light of truth to shine upon him. After the fourth child was born, she started getting restless and left for good before the youngest child turned six.


I watched this Black man raise the children by himself. He told me that she would come around every once in a while which upset/confused the children so he told her to stay away. Whenever the kids saw me they would hop in my lap and lay on me which broke my heart because I knew that they were wanting the type of nurturing that comes from a mother's love. Then, he met a Black woman who helped him comb the children's hair and offer support. I could tell that she loved him, but since he already had the financial responsibility of four children, he had no intention of having any more. He was devastated when the Black woman died unmarried and childless a few years ago of heart disease. Was it because she had an unhealthy diet or did she die of heartache? The mother of his children ditched the responsibility of raising them and is currently with another Black man.




We now have enough context to tell a story that speaks to the heart of a pain that Black women carry in secret - mainly because no one seems to care. My love for Frederick Douglass is complicated. His achievements as an orator, abolitionist and freedom fighter are undisputed and fills me with a sense of pride and deep gratitude. In this post, we will briefly examine a lesser-known story. Anna Murray Douglass was the first wife of Frederick Douglass. Anna was born free. Frederick (at the time his last name was Bailey) was enslaved. They met and fell in love. Anna worked as a domestic to save up money to help Frederick escape to New York. They changed their name to Douglass and moved to Massachusetts. Together, they had five children. Anna supported Frederick in every way including financially supporting the family before his career took off and running the household while her husband travelled for long periods of time, hosting abolitionists and assisting escaping enslaved people through the Underground Railroad. The rest should be history. However, there is a twist to this story that is rarely discussed. I will share a few highlights.





Helen Pitts, a white abolitionist from New York, was hired as a clerk to work in the office of Frederick Douglass. When Frederick travelled, Helen and another white woman named Julia Griffiths accompanied him while his wife Anna stayed home and ran the house. Both white women eventually moved in to the Douglass estate. Julia would occasionally write letters criticizing Anna as a keeper of the Douglass home. In one of her letters she wrote, "Poor Fellow! The quiet and repose he so much needs are very difficult for him to attain in his domestic circle." After the two white women moved into their home, Anna fell into a deep depression. She died of a stroke in 1882, and in 1884, Frederick Douglass married Helen Pitts. In 1895, Frederick Douglass died suddenly of a heart attack. Helen Pitts inherited his 21 room estate. However, his will was eventually ruled invalid due to the lack of legal witnesses.





There are layers and levels to this story that are beyond the scope of this post, but it reminds me of the story of a Black woman I've known since I was a teen. I thought it was unusual for this white woman to constantly be hanging around the Black woman's husband. The Black woman told me that the white woman was harmless. She had been around the family for a long time and worked for him, sometimes for free. The short version of the story is that the Black woman found out about the affair when the white woman got pregnant. At the time, the Black woman was raising two children with her husband and financially supported him while he established his career. Five years after the white woman had the baby, she left the Black man and moved on to another Black man.


The Black man finally saw the truth and deeply regretted his mistake, but it was too late. He realized that he truly loved his wife and tried to reconcile with her, but she moved on. She was eventually and happily married to an Indigenous man of Mexican descent. When I saw them together, I loved the way they treated each other.



I share these stories because they represent some of the invisible assaults on the Black family that will not be a part of a social justice movement, get press or have a nonprofit established to fight for its cause.


These are the invisible branches that the monkey in our mind swings from. The saddest part of telling these stories is the realization that I have so many of them to tell.





Black ☥ Indigenous ☥ Immigrant Men (BIIM) are easy prey for narcissistic white women because skin color self-consciousness causes an array of complicated social issues (that begin in early childhood), including feeling the pressure to conform to white culture to fit in socially, professionally/to get promotions, etc. which contributes to the subtle chipping away at their self-esteem. These white women (who have been heavily marketed as the standard for beauty) take advantage of this self-consciousness by using sexual attraction to stroke the BIIM's egos and string them along. Their egos blind them to reality which often plays out in social situations with Black ☥ Indigenous ☥ Immigrant Women.


Whether or not these white women are attractive, compatible or even care about the men is of no consequence. During one of my family reunions, a few of my Black male family members brought white girls as dates. These girls looked like they just fell out of a pig pen, but the Black males were proudly parading them around like they had just won the lotto. None of them seemed to notice these white girls were scoping out the other Black men at our reunion. The elders in my family were so confused by this that some of them pulled me over to the side and asked me if the males were on drugs. I've watched BIIM walk right past drop dead gorgeous, compatible BII Women to talk to, date or marry the homeliest of white women. It's as if the BIIM who fall into these traps have gone blind. The pressure to conform is tantamount to an inception (performed without putting the person to sleep), creating a social norm where the only criteria for choosing a woman is "white" and "a vagina."






I've seen the effects of this inception play out many times in the behaviors of BIIM, especially in business social situations with wealthy white people. I was at an exclusive event that catered to billionaire real estate investors. I could count the number of Black ☥ Immigrant People in attendance on one hand (no Indigenous People were present). I was there to teach Qigong and stress management. During the dinner, I was placed at a large table where a brown-skinned Indian man was sitting. He tensed up when he saw me approaching. By the time I found my seat at the table, he had placed his elbow on the table, leaned into his hand and twisted his body so that he wouldn't have to look at or talk to me.





I felt sorry for him because I realized he had no idea that he was not loved or respected any more than I was at the event. Somehow he hoped that he would earn some points by only socializing with white people and that no one would notice his brown skin which was as dark as mine. On several work occasions, Black men have said to me that we should "break it up" so that white people don't get nervous watching Black People congregate.